Counsellors Go Back
Hong Kong Jockey Club just announced a report by a consultant figuring out that Hong Kong people lost money in Macau casinos surging from HK$ 10 billion in 2005 to HK$ 23 billion in 2010. In the same period, the gross revenue of Jockey Club increased from 19.3 billion to 21.8 billion after paying betting taxes. The Club claimed that though the gross revenue had increased in the past five years, the increasing rate did not reach 3 billion and it was incompatible with Macau where the increasing rate was tens of billion. In addition, there were also revenues from Sports Betting in Macau. Within this contrast, Hong Kong Jockey Club as a leading bookmaker in running horse-racing activities in the world lost a great amount of wagers which spilt out by the local high-rollers to the Eastern Las Vegas (Macau casinos) instead of the Club originally and this thus made people sigh with regret. Furthermore, upon the diligent running of the lucrative business, tens of billion dollars were paid to the HKSAR government by the Club in terms of Betting Tax annually. Also, the Club had already paid hundreds of billion dollars to the government since the passing of the Constrained Football Betting Ordinance in 2003 up to now. Besides, the Club in addition donated 15 million dollars to Home Affairs Bureau annually to run "Ping Wo Fund" which endowed the NGOs to conduct research, to educate and to remedy the addicted gamblers and other people concerned. Unfortunately, the government does not have a long term policy and just focus on heavy Betting Tax and turn blind eyes to control the high-rollers to Macau as well as the exaggerating advertisements of the Macau casinos via various medium throughout Hong Kong. The complaint of the Club is easily savvied. It is hoped that the government may envisage the problem and check the breach and stop the influx of large amount of wagers into Macau casinos or bookies.
The Jockey Club's appeal is appreciated but our focus is different.
The Jockey Club's appeal is appreciated by Caritas Addicted Gamblers counseling Centre (CAGCC) but our focus is entirely different.
The Club's concern focuses on the outflow of bookies into Macau while CAGCC's concern focuses on the pathological problems of the addicted gamblers when returning to Hong Kong. CAGCC has rendered counseling services to more than 7000 gamblers and their family members since 2003. Among 3491 gamblers, 19.6% is problematic gamblers, 59.8% is pathological gamblers and 20.6% is classified as severe pathological gamblers. It is also noted that addicted gambling also causes the following problems such as emotional disturbances (77.6%), attempted suicides (19.1%) and death with family members (0.7%). All these problems cause individual, family and even society the heavy and irreversible cost directly or indirectly. Our staff works like the medical staff at the Emergency Unit in the hospital gives first aid to the desperate gamblers or their family members every day. It is also like the front line army to confront with the endless gamblers army. Regrettably, the devastating advertisements of the casinos, the accumulative large amount of lottery funds and various sophisticated stakes in horse betting and football betting make most Hong Kong people falls into the addicted gambling cobwebs unconsciously.
As the gambling counselors, we are bound to help the addicted gamblers to abstain from the formidable behaviors and let them to turn over a new leaf. From our past successful experience, around 20 persons concerned such as the gamblers' family members, friends, relatives and even superiors are benefitted from each successful gambling abstainer. The slogan--- "One successful gambling abstainer brings happiness to all people around!" makes us use up more elbow grease to carry on our gambling counseling.
Though there is a difference between the Club's and ours concern about gambling problems in Hong Kong, we still have a common viewpoint---the government should envisage the addicted gambling problem in Hong Kong and carry out a responsible measure to prevent people from addicted gambling. By doing so, the government , basing on No Gambling Prohibition Policy, should enforce a [Responsible Betting] Policy positively and actively so as to safeguard Hong Kong people not to drop into the abyss of the addicted gambling cobwebs.
The contents of [Responsible Betting] Policy are as follows :
- The age of the persons allowed to enter the gambling areas increase from 18 to 21 ;
- All illegal in-house or off-the-floor loans are prohibited ;
- Restricted regulations should be enforced to those addicted gamblers not to stay inside the gambling areas to gamble ceaselessly ;
- The government should levy Cross-border Gambling Tax ;
- Gambling Prevention elements should be included in Liberal Studies so that the students of primary, secondary and tertiary institutions know the disadvantages of addicted gambling ;
- The government should legislate ban on various gambling advertisements through different medium ;
- [Ping Wo Fund] may be funded from Betting Tax directly so as to subsidize the NGOs to carry out addicted gambling research, to promote Gambling Prevention Education Scheme, to render addicted gambling counseling and to train the personnel in addicted gambling counseling.
We can easily find some places enforcing the [Responsible Betting] Policy such as Singapore, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and Macau Special Zone. The SAR Hong Kong is Asia's monetary trading Centre where owns thousands of billion Reserve Fund and hundreds of billion Betting Tax. This strength fully qualify for the government to take responsible attitude to enforce [Responsible Betting] Policy to save those 270 thousand addicted gamblers and millions of their family members and Hong Kong people affected by the addicted gamblers.
It is hoped that the [Responsible Betting] Policy would be enforced within this term of HKSAR government!
The author is the Supervisor of Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counseling Centre
This is the special article written for Viewpoint, Ming Pao 21st July, 2011 (Thursday) Editor: Cheng Lee Kwan
(Translated by Patrick Tse)